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Local wrestlers off to hot start at first tournaments
Pitman girls wrestling
The Pitman High girls wrestling team are back to their dominant ways as they went 24-4 in their matches across all levels at Saturday’s Havoc in the Hawksnest tournament in Ceres. At the varsity level, four wrestlers finished on the podium of their respective weight classes, including three first-place finishers (Photo contributed).

Pitman girls dominate Havoc in the Hawksnest


Despite Pitman losing two state champions to graduation this past summer in Lilly Avalos and Lilly Freitas, as well as state medalist Alana Ontiveros, they seemed to have not lost a single step as they started the 2023-2024 season strong at the 11th annual Havoc in the Hawksnest women’s tournament at Central Valley High School in Ceres on Saturday.


The Pride saw four of their varsity wrestlers place, with three of them taking the top spots on the podium of their respective weight classes.


Last year’s state runner-up, junior Gabby Austin, picked up where she left off by defeating all four of her opponents by fall within the very first minute of action to claim first in the 125-pound weight division. Senior Lexi Capote also swept her bracket of 105 pounds with first-period pins in her two matches. Freshman Lily Dizion rounded out the first-place finishers, winning two of her three matches by fall in the first period to win the 100-pound division.


Fellow freshman Patricia Bray also made it to the 115-pound finals after she was given a first-round bye and won her semifinal match by second period fall. In the final, she was bested by Atwater’s Araceli Suarez right before the third period.


The Turlock Bulldogs were also well represented in the Hawksnest. Their top performance came from sophomore Aliah Bertalotto, who placed third in the 110-pound division. Other than her loss in the semifinal, she won all four of her matches by first period fall.


Denair Coyotes impress at Mission Oak SuperScramble


Denair head wrestling coach Bryan Herrington admitted that he had doubts about the school’s wrestling program after finishing with just two students by season’s end last year. He took a chance by launching The Den, a youth wrestling program in Denair. Despite being less than a year old, it’s already paying dividends.


Denair wrestling
Denair High wrestling has seen a rise in participation this year. The small-knit group is already producing impressive results by seeing three of their four varsity wrestlers place at Saturday’s Mission Oak SuperScramble in Tulare (Photo contributed).

This year, the Coyotes enter the season with 13 wrestlers. Not only that, but three of their four varsity wrestlers placed at their first tournament of the season, the Mission Oak SuperScramble in Tulare.


They were led by junior Jesse Ruelas Jr., who returned to the mats after a year away to win all four of his matches via fall and clinch first place in the 157-pound division. His efforts earned him the Journal’s Athlete of the Week honors.


In the boys’ 190-pound division, fellow junior Adrian Enciso grabbed second place. After a first-round bye, Enciso produced a first period fall in his semifinal match. Unfortunately for him, he was pinned by East Bakersfield's Tito Santiago in the finals.


Freshman Brianna Thomas also placed in her bracket, the girls’ 170-pound division. After losing her opening round match, she was able to earn a pair of pins in the consolation bracket, before losing again in the third-place match.


“For ending the season with two kids to get to our first tournament this year, all the way down in Tulare, where there’s a lot of really good wrestling schools there, I thought they did really well,” said Harrington.


“The vibe for this high school group is better than I've seen in quite a long time. For the past five years, we only needed vans. This weekend, we took a bus, and the kids were having a great time with each other, so it’s amazing to see that excitement in the program. It was just a good feeling to see that they're building passion for this sport and are building the type of memories that I wanted them to build, the ones I had when I was wrestling in high school.”